The Challenge of Making Friends


I recently lost a close friend to Covid. I’ve also become a part of the demographic where we attend more funerals than weddings. This forces me to survey the few friends I have left, and the difficulties we face in finding and developing new friendships.

There is no question that old friends are irreplaceable. No matter how much you like or click with someone you recently met, the history you shared with someone over the course of many years of your life, who knew you at different stages of your development, as well as you knowing them, is unique and not replicable.

One reason retirement community living has gained popularity is that it affords people with similar ages to have shared social interactions, and offers the opportunity of making new friends. Despite this advantage, there are a number of disadvantages to this type of organized life, one which I have written about in greater detail in a blog I posted a few months ago. However you feel about these senior citizen havens, they are not congruous with my personal philosophy, insofar as they are mostly inward focused, rather than trying to make connections with the world around us.

Given our internet age, there exists a plethora of online sites that pop up if you run a search for apps designed to help you make new friends. They range from Bumble BFF, a version of the popular dating site but geared towards people looking to make friends rather than date, to Real, a site that offers you personality types rather than photos of individuals, so your choices are less based on appearances. They also offer no option to select a gender or sexual preference in your search parameters, theoretically making for a more diverse field of choices. There is Nextdoor, aiming to create a private social network in your own neighborhood, along with Atleto for people seeking sports activities, Bark Happy for pet owners, Peanut for mothers with children, and many others with names like Friender, Meetup, Friend Match, Squad, and Tinder Social. Most of these function on the swipe right, swipe left model of traditional dating sites, and while they offer hope for making new friends, they also require disclosure of various amounts of personal information to a world where such information has at least the potential for misuse. If you grew up with Facebook, Match.com and the plethora of all the newer dating sites, this sort of interaction may come as second nature. For those of a different generation,  there is a lot of built in resistance to using the internet in displaying information about yourself in the hopes that someone will be honest both in their facts as well as intentions in the use of these apps.

The old trope holds true of finding groups that participate in activities you enjoy is still valid. The bigger problem comes in establishing the kind of relationship that falls into the rubric of true friendship. This takes work, willingness to make yourself vulnerable to the needs of someone else, and the time to establish trust required for that kind of commitment. It also takes the availability of time on both your parts to give to a relationship. Sadly, our society norms and motivations today are more directed at either just having shared entertainment, networking, or social climbing. Lot of us have numerous acquaintances willing to have dinner or attend some event together, but, at least in my experience, few who want to establish a deeper relationship that requires risky personal disclosure or acceptance of obligation to the needs of the other. Even for those of us who have been fortunate enough to have found a partner in our life who is our best friend, we need this type of connection with other human beings, so we keep searching, trying to build our own community. 

Posted in America, friendship, Happiness, Relatioships, Thoughts & Musings | 2 Comments

Thermostat


Due to technical problems beyond our control, Monday’s Poem of the Week is being posted late today, instead of our usual time. We apologize for the delay, but hope you enjoying the following piece, which, at least to me, appears timely for many today.

Thermostat

Everything is nervous here, vibrating

to the hum of air conditioning.

Outside, the palms are never still.

Inside, palms sweat in high anxiety.

Even the indifferent chameleon

sunning on the hot veranda

blows his red sac as a warning.

On the Gulf a tropical depression

brews a hurricane. Depression

in this place is deeper still,

this space where hopes die,

wishes fail, silent waiting ends

as the next white-coated person

speaks of trying everything.

And the coldness that comes then

makes the heat of anger welcome,

like the coming storm.

Robert L. Jones

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Dawn


I was fortunate to be able to spend the weekend by the ocean, escaping the heat wave that enveloped much of the Southern California. Hope you enjoy this ocean inspired Monday’s Poem of the Week from my old files, with my apologies to its author, whose name has been lost in the fog of my memory.

DAWN

Alien bird calls

echo

across the alien landscape

the sea is

as calm

as a lake

the wind has not arrived

yet

to make its

presence known

and the wind ship

is quiet

Right now

the land belongs

to the birds

as they wake

to the dawn

calling from island

to island

happy the night

is over

ready

for a bath

relaxed

with no humans

yet

to speed their

heart beats

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Labor Day


This Monday’s Poem of the Week is taking a pause to celebrate Labor Day, being replaced with the following thoughts.

This is Labor Day, so I would like to offer kudos to all my Readers who are currently holding jobs (including domestic) to which they give their best efforts, or who have retired honorably after years of doing their part in being productive members of our society.

Before I embarked on a medical career, I worked in many different jobs including lifeguard, ice cream truck driver, steel mill worker, electrician, gardener, inhalation therapist to name but a few. During this time, I developed a profound respect for how hard most people work in order to put food on the table for themselves and their families, how dangerous and how stressful some jobs can be, and how pride in your work can give meaning to tasks that some would regard as demeaning or of little value.

Sadly, I also watched a change take place in the nature of the relationship between worker and employer. Employees in most jobs, certainly in ones with large organizations, can no longer expect a guarantee of employment, the safety of benefits upon retirement, nor continued stability even within a given industry. The forces of a market driven economy and globalization have torn asunder the old contract of “as long as you do a good job, you’ll always have a place with our company, and we’ll take care of you upon your retirement.” I think most of us have been affected directly or indirectly by out-sourcing in the labor market, as well a continued closing down of many of our traditional industries as new factories continue to be built in countries with lower wages. Given our own demand for products at the lowest possible cost (what brand of watch are you wearing, what car are you driving, where was your shirt made?) this is a process that will continue to accelerate until higher standards of living drive up wages elsewhere at the same time lowering standards in our own country reduces our own ability to pay for these goods from abroad. Unfortunately, I see no cure for this Darwinian situation, except to attempt to be the best we can be in those areas where we still hold a competitive advantage, and to pay close attention to how markets are likely to impact our own future, working assiduously to develop skills that are not readily replaceable.

Having come myself to this country as an immigrant with immigrant parents, I was imbued with the idea that the one thing that cannot be taken away from you is your knowledge and education. And as long as you are willing to work hard to be in the upper percentile of whatever you do, you will have someone willing to pay you for your skills.

We must be willing to continually reinvest in ourselves, our own training and education, so that we may not only remain competitive in an increasingly challenging world, but also that we can maintain pride in doing the best possible work of which we are capable. For most of us, we are not able to accomplish our jobs except for the aid of others. I feel it’s vital that we recognize this dependence, and reward all those who help us not only in a monetary fashion (important as that is) but also by giving recognition and praise for their part in our success. Be well, and enjoy the holiday.

Posted in America, News and politics, Relatioships, Thoughts & Musings, Unions | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Medical Humor


Awash with tragedy (figuratively and literally) in the news, I felt we could all do with a bit of humor. Here it is:

MEDICAL TERMS FOR THE LAY PUBLIC (A-H)

Doctors spend the first part of their education learning an arcane language designed to make their knowledge look more obscure than it really is. The following represents a layman’s interpretation of some medical words. 

Acute – opposite of ugly.

Anus – we didn’t do it.

Beri-beri – a fruit-flavored drink.

Biology – the science of shopping.

Bronchitis – what nervous cowboys experience at rodeos.

CAT scan – kitty search.

Cellulitis – a jail term.

Cerebral palsy – a smart friend.

Collagen – a university student.

Giardia – Italian police.

High colonic – a Jewish religious holiday.

Hippocratic oath – an exclamation when you get your hospital bill.

Hirsute – not his suit.

Hookworm – a fishing lure.

Hygiene – a greeting.

Feel free to offer up your own daffynitions. I’ll post them, along with new words (I – Z) next time around.

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Exit Strategies


As I sit down to write this piece, my Favorite Poet’s plane had already brought him back to Paris. It was wonderful to have he and his family home for summer vacation, but I once again have to relinquish him to his chosen life in the City of Lights. Seeing him so happy there makes the separation more bearable, though I already miss him.

We watched an old movie recently, “The Bucket List.” Though the story of Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson facing cancer and dying is hardly the stuff of suspense, the quality of the writing and acting is such that I have to place it on my “do not miss” recommendation list. Those who’ve seen this movie will appreciate the following poem even more, though it stands on its own merits.

Exit Strategies

After Edward Lear

You might be bit by a rattler hid in your boot

or choke while drinking green tea;

could be killed by the kick of a madwoman’s foot

or be drowned in the syllabub sea.

You could murder yourself in New York with a fork

or melt in a crater of lava;

You could die by too frequently popping the cork

of your favorite brand of Marsala.

You could be gored by a virulent bull

Or be bored by a brute of a bee.

Your skull could crack like a china doll’s

when you fall from a three-story tree.

You might be split in two halves by a horse

or you could go more peacefully, of course.

Julie Moulds

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Friendship


FRIENDSHIP

“You can always tell a real friend: when you made a fool of yourself, he doesn’t feel you’ve done a permanent job.”  – Laurence J. Peter

Someone once said that love demands less of us than friendship, though the status of both appears to be in flux these days. I suppose I should, at the very outset, make a distinction between acquaintances, of which most people have many, and friends, of which most have few or none. Henry Adams famously observed that “one friend in a lifetime is much; two are many; three are hardly possible.”

Acquaintances are colleagues at work, neighbors we casually talk to, or people with whom we might socialize over the course of dinner, a ball game, or a church picnic. We may sit around with these folks, try to top each other’s stories, share a few laughs, then not see or think about them for six months. There are some people whose entire lives are filled with these kind of social encounters without realizing they do not have single friend.

I see groups who regularly get together to play cards, golf, or Saturday softball. And though these games go on for years, the level of discourse may never get beyond the superficial “how ‘bout them Bears” or discussions of petty bosses, recent vacations, plans for the new car. What is lacking in many of these relationships is the element of trust in broaching subjects which may be painful, embarrassing, or risky – risky in the sense of revealing our true feelings and risk having them (and us) rejected. Also lacking is the element of caring, which would obligate the friend to come to the aid of the other. We have increasingly become a society that values convenience above all else. We have disposable bottles, diapers, and so it would seem, relationships. For any meaningful contact involves recognition of the other person’s needs, and thus, by definition, is inconvenient. Unfortunately, there are many of us who already feel overburdened by the demands of work, children, and parents to the degree that we want to avoid any other demands; we avoid intimacy in order to avoid obligation.

For some, friendship is not about giving but getting. These are the people who cultivate others based on the friend’s ability to help with advancement at work, gain access to a boat or a weekend place at the beach. The problem is that these bogus friends are no more capable of having a true friendship than the married man who goes alone to single bars of having a solid union with his spouse. One young man I knew, charged with ambition, shamelessly courted his boss’s attention. He dressed like him, scurried to open doors for him, studied his habits and background, and molded himself in the boss’s image as much as possible. He achieved a series of rapid promotions, despite the intense dislike of his fellow workers, who began to refer to him as the “heir transparent.” When the boss moved on to another position, the young man, based on the old boss’s recommendation, was appointed as department director.

To some, this is a familiar tale of corporate life. Kissing up to the boss has become a way of life for many, as pervasive as fast food, and about equally palatable. I met this man later in his career at a meeting we were both attending. Now a CEO, he started to talk about how much he missed the old place where we both had worked, and how hard he found it to make any friends, as all the people he came in contact with were simply currying his favor, or trying to establish a business relationship with him. The irony of his story was completely lost on him.

We each weave the tapestries of our life with different color threads. We weave in our family, our work, our interests and enthusiasms. We all have a short, finite period of time in which to finish this project. If we are fortunate, we find others with similar and contrasting colors, accenting and highlighting our own, bringing out rich hues we ourselves were unaware of being present, and we mesh our patterns together, creating a stronger, more interesting fabric, a design more glorious than our initial, lone conception. The threads of friendship, long and lasting, gives luster to our tapestry – to our life.

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New Beginnings Are Hard


New beginnings are hard. Sometimes we make a conscious choice to start over again, or at least change directions. At other times, the decision is forced upon us. Regardless how it comes about, change represents both danger and opportunity. In my world, we are awash in a sea of changes, most not of our choosing. All this brings me to the following for our Monday Poem of the Week:

Poem not containing the word snake

This morning on the garden path I find a whorl

of scaled collodion shed overnight, complete

from corneas to tail, a sinuous coil

of glistening membrane, its former occupant

now rippling the grass. I wonder

when that time arrived, what signal flared?

Restrictive pellicle, old eyes dim –

no  thought of venom, then, or prey.

Which reminds me of our talk

last night, how hard it is to change

oneself for good. How hard to know

the right time to slip off

a useless skin, the right time

to begin again.

Ted McMahon

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Belly


It’s a bit late, but still Monday, so time to post this today’s Poem of the Week. Due to the presence of my VIP visitors, we ate more than we usually do, so today’s poem is particularly fitting. Their plane makes its way back to Paris tomorrow, giving me the opportunity to mend my caloric sinful ways in the days to come.

Belly

I finally notice it at a dinner party,

the  way it stretches my shirt,

its urgency from the cake I’ve eaten,

its nerdy gurgles all the way home.

My wife has noticed it too.

She eyes it from her side of the bed.

My belly is new topography for us. She says,

You really should do something about that.

I take it by the car to the doctor’s office,

sit among other people with wrong-sized parts;

there is a swollen hand in the lap next to me,

a puffy face staring at me over the magazines.

When it’s my turn, the doctor examines my roundness

as though an explorer determined to map me;

there may be an alternative route to the Indies

laid out somewhere on these curving new lines.

Eventually, the doctor relaxes on the rolling stool,

assures me that everything will be all right in time.

It seems that I have merely eaten too much.

If I just eat less, the doctor assures me, the gut will shrink.

I ponder this on the drive home, my hand on my belly.

It sits in my lap like an old cat, thinking about its next meal.

Have I really eaten too much, belly? I ask it. Could it be?

There is only the sound of the car and the world around the car.

At the dinner table, my wife and I discuss the situation.

She agrees with the doctor. I nod, but I’m not so sure.

I eat my normal amount of dinner though we talk about changes,

about reduced portion size and exercise and a long, long life.

Then I wash the dishes contemplatively with my belly against the sink.

The air, in the kitchen and out the open window, is a fog of spices;

everywhere is the rising scent of this city and beyond.

I can’t help myself. I’m still hungry for more.

David H. Ebenbach

Posted in America, Family, Food, Health and wellness, Humor, Poetry, Thoughts & Musings | Tagged | 2 Comments

SHAME ON US


SHAME ON US!

I am angry, and I’m deeply ashamed. I just turned off the news (which I watch with decreasing frequency, as it seems designed to make me fearful, angry or both) showing scenes of the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan, with our Secretary of State announcing with a straight face that this is nothing like our calamitous retreat was from Saigon a half a century ago. No, this is EXACTLY like Saigon was back then, with bad intelligence, woeful diplomatic incompetence, and abandonment of the native translators and allies to whom we promised safekeeping and a new home, if they so desired, in the Land of the Free.

For anyone who had boots on the ground in Vietnam then or Afghanistan today, none of what is happening now comes as a great surprise. The only surprise should come from the fact that there are still people in the world who believe that America’s promises of military aid are to be trusted, and that we will honor our commitments to assist those who help us achieve our aims.

I suspect that the soldiers who served our cause believed at the time the local Afghans were recruited that the rhetoric they heard from our leaders was honest. After all, they were putting their own lives on the line. However, our elected officials have again proven their mendacity. They remain willing to put young, innocent lives in harm’s way, but both the American public, as well as their representatives lack the fortitude to suffer the sacrifices it takes to win a war or to keep our commitments to our allies.

Our enemies, and we have many, have been watching the rapid erosion of the values we profess in speech and in our slogans.  While I know many who still believe and are willing to fight for democracy, sadly those numbers are rapidly decreasing. True patriots have become  an endangered species, at least in the ranks of our politicians. As for finding allies to help us in our cause in the future – let’s hope they are as blind to history as we have become.

Posted in America, Death and Dying, Ethics, History, Honor, Lies, News and politics, Politics, Southeast Asia, Thoughts & Musings, Vietnam War | Tagged , , | 1 Comment